PBS to air weekly news series with Bill Moyers

By Lynn Ebler The Associated Press
Tuesday January 08, 2002

PASADENA — PBS said Monday it is launching a weekly news program with veteran journalist Bill Moyers that will round out its Friday night public affairs lineup. 

“NOW with Bill Moyers” will begin Friday, Jan. 18. It will air after “Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser.” 

The program, proposed by PBS to Moyers less than two months ago, is being rushed to air in part because of increased attention to news following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, PBS said. 

Moyers, a longtime public television contributor whose previous weekly PBS shows included “This Week with Bill Moyers,” said “NOW” aims to avoid what he called the “contest of pitbulls” on other public affairs programs. 

“NOW” also will differ from network news magazines that emphasize human interest stories, with its focus on important issues facing democracy, Moyers said. 

He was busy with other projects and initially balked at accepting the job. It was PBS executives’ commitment to making public TV relevant and a forum for “diverse voices” that changed his mind, he said. 

He “didn’t want to let PBS down,” Moyers said. 

“NOW” will include interviews, analysis, documentary pieces and significant contributions from National Public Radio, said PBS President Pat Mitchell. 

“We will look at what’s on our minds and in our hearts now,” Mitchell told a meeting of the Television Critics Association. The series will be anchored from Thirteen/WNET’s New York studio. 

Other PBS Friday night programs are “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and “Washington Week in Review.” NOW will air at 9 p.m. PST (check local listings). 

“NOW” is taking over the slot briefly held by “Life 360,” a theme-based magazine which had a shaky start this fall. It will be revamped and return in summer, Mitchell said. A time period was not announced. 

Mitchell said that PBS honored its commitment to children’s programming by sticking with its regular shows on Sept. 11, deciding not to break away for coverage of the news. 

But PBS’ ability to go behind the headlines was demonstrated by shows pertinent to the crisis it quickly aired, including reruns of the series “Islam: Empire of Faith” and a “Frontline” profile of Osama bin Laden, she said. 

The White House, Congress and “even the Queen of England” requested copies of the shows, Mitchell said. 

Mitchell noted a 14 percent December increase in viewer-members, the largest source of money for public TV stations. Through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and grants, PBS receives about 15 percent of its budget from the federal government.